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  • Writer's pictureAlicia Paz

Trauma-Informed Mindfulness Techniques

When I worked with incarcerated women with substance abuse, extensive trauma backgrounds, and mental health issues, doing traditional mindfulness was difficult. Some of the women did not like to close their eyes or listen to instrumental music. The "typical" mindfulness techniques could even be triggering.

Here is my list of go-to mindfulness techniques with step-by-step directions for those who may struggle with mindfulness due to trauma, focus, or other reasons. Note: if you don't feel comfortable closing your eyes lower your gaze, stare at a spot on the ground or wall.

  • Comparison: Start by looking at two items that look nearly identical, for example two matching pillows, two matching chairs or even both of your feet. Notice the first object; What color is it? What is the texture? Is it cold or warm? Does it make a sound? Notice the small details. Now look at the second object, noticing the same small details. Now look at both items together; What differences to the two items have? (I have the inmates do this with the chair they are sitting on and have them switch chairs with someone in a different style chair.)

  • 5 Senses: To yourself, say 5 things or think you see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing you can taste right now.

  • Square Breathing: This exercise is similar to belly or diaphragmatic breathing. Breathe in as deeply as is comfortable while you picture a line being drawn as one side of a square. Then, exhale and imagine the next side of the square being drawn. Take one more inhale to draw the third side and breathe out to complete the imaginary drawing of the square.

  • Finger Lettering: Choose a word of affirmation and spend a minute thinking about that word. For example let's say the word is "Hope." Spell the word out with your fingers. You can do this in the air in front of you or just imagine the shape of the letters. Focus on your script until the word is complete.

I hope some of these techniques work for you and/or your clients. Feel free to leave a comment about what you tried and if any other mindfulness skills or tips have helped you.

Take Care,


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